What is Pranayama?
In class, you may notice our instructors placing quite a bit of emphasis on breathing. In my first yoga classes, I remember our instructor, Glenda, reminding us to breathe, as well as when to breathe, how to breathe, where to breathe, and to never stop breathing! It was very challenging for me to keep my breath in pace with the class, but I learned that my body would adjust with regular practice (phew), and that “all that breathing” in yoga exists so that I can enjoy all the wonderful benefits of a full yoga practice.
I also learned that my term, “all that breathing”, is really a part of something known as Pranayama, or “Extension of Life Force.”
Our ‘Prana’, or our ‘life force’, is our breath. Our breath acts as a stimulus to our natural energy flow and is the connector between our body and mind, which allows us to access the benefits of Yoga. If we hold our breath while in a yoga pose, we restrict our awareness, our flexibility, our strength, and our ability to learn the pose. The pose becomes only that, a physical pose. So our breath, or life force, is what turns a physical position into a yoga posture, giving us increased energy, strength, and awareness. Learning proper breathing can be challenging at first; don’t get discouraged if your breathing does not match perfectly with cues from your instructor- just keep breathing and your yoga breath will happen.
There are many wonderful pranayama exercises you may encounter within a yoga class, or in your own research. A great way to begin your pranayama practice is with “yogic breathing,” or diaphragmatic breathing. Many of us tend to hold our belly in and breath into the top portion of our lungs instead of allowing our breath to naturally move our diaphragm downward, which pushes our belly outward slightly. This type of breathing triggers a powerful calming response within the body, along with expanding lung capacity, increasing circulation, enhancing digestive and lymph functioning, and, over time, lowering blood pressure. Practice this breathing in your yoga class as well as in your personal space; start with 10 minutes a day.
How to Breathe Diaphragmatically:
Begin seated, standing, or lying down. Any of these positions is great as long as your spine is straight.
Breathe in and out through your nose, keeping your mouth closed
As you inhale fully, bring the breath all the way down your lungs and allow your belly to gently expand on its own.
As you exhale, gently feel your belly relax (don’t push or force the air out).
Practice making your breaths slow and even and fluid, without pausing.
Feel instantly at ease J
- Note: it is best to wear loose fitting clothing to allow this breath to happen naturally.
The Centre at VitaZen is Smith Mountain Lake’s premiere yoga studio. Offering classes 6 days per week year round and Sundays through the summer. We have 5 200 hour certified instructors. Join us and find out why our yogis proudly say “My Yoga Studio”.
The Centre at VitaZen
12787 Booker T Washington Hwy
Hardy, VA 24101 / 540-721-9365